New Book Highlights Greek Music in America

New Book Highlights Greek Music in America

by Eleni Sakellis

Published in The National Herald, February 2, 2019


I am excited that The National Herald has given Hellenic Genealogy Geek the right to reprint articles that may be of interest to our group. 


Greek music has a long history going back through the millennia. It should be no surprise, therefore, that wherever Greeks traveled, they brought their music with them. The collection of essays in Greek Music in America, edited by Tina Bucuvalas, highlights the history and the people who brought Greek music to the United States and continued the rich tradition to the present day. Among the contributors to the book is The National Herald contributor Stavros K. Frangos. 

According to Bucuvalas, Greeks were known to have arrived in the New World along with the Spanish explorers and British colonists, and like most people would have brought their music with them. 

The book is a long-overdue study that samples all the genres, sounds, and contributions of the Greek music diaspora and features essays by Bucuvalas, Anna Caraveli, Aydin Chaloupka, Sotirios (Sam) Chianis, Frank Desby, Frangos, Stathis Gauntlett, Joseph G. Graziosi, Gail Holst-Warhaft, Michael G. Kaloyanides, Panayotis League, Roderick Conway Morris, Nick Pappas, Meletios Pouliopoulos, Anthony Shay, David Soffa, Dick Spottswood, Jim Stoynoff, and Anna Lomax Wood.

Despite a substantial artistic legacy, there has never been a book devoted to Greek music in America until now. Those seeking to learn about this vibrant and exciting music had to search for individual essays, often published in obscure sources. This volume provides a valuable resource for understanding the scope, practice, and development of Greek music in America through essays and profiles written by principal scholars in the field. 

As noted in the book’s description, Greece developed a rich variety of traditional, popular, and art music that diaspora Greeks brought with them to America. In Greek-American communities, music was and continues to be an essential component of most social activities. Music links the past to the present, the distant to the near, and bonds the community with an embrace of memories and narrative. From 1896 to 1942, more than a thousand Greek recordings in many genres were made in the United States, and thousands more have appeared since then. These encompass not only Greek traditional music from all regions, but also emerging urban genres, stylistic changes, and new songs of social commentary. Greek Music in America includes essays on all of these topics as well as history and genre, places and venues, the recording business, and profiles of individual musicians. This book is required reading for anyone who cares about Greek music in America, whether scholar, fan, or performer. 

Tina Bucuvalas is curator of art and historical resources with the City of Tarpon Springs. Formerly president of the Florida Folklore Society, she served as state folklorist and director of the Florida Folklife Program of the Florida Department of State. Her many books include Just Above the Water: Florida Folk Art; South Florida Folklife; and The Florida Folklife Reader, all published by University Press of Mississippi. 

TNH contributor Dan Georgakas, director of the Greek American Studies Project at the Center for Byzantine and Modern Greek Studies at Queens College, said of the book, “This is a landmark work in Greek American studies. Comprehensive essays and thumbnail portraits chronicle popular, rebetiko, regional, and sacred music in Greek America. The various contributors deal authoritatively with the subtle interactions between immigrant and mainstream culture. A must-read for anyone interested in the Greek diaspora or ethnic cultures in America.”